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News Analysis: Stuart Feather's departure from Carat Edinburgh

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By Stephen Lepitak, -

November 24, 2011 | 6 min read

The departure of Stuart Feather from Carat, just a month after the announcement of Aegis-owned Feather Brooksbank's rebrand as Carat Edinburgh, might not have come as a great surprise to everyone.

Feather has run the business, alongside co-founder Giles Brooksbank, for two decades and was very much a figure head for media buying in Scotland.

The agency rebranded 12 years after it was acquired by Aegis in order to fall in line with the rest of the Carat Group, and although Feather and Brooksbank’s earn-out period ended in 2003, the two continued to steer the ship, with Feather remaining managing director.

Being informed, as he was last month, that he would now report to Tracy De Groose, managing director of Carat’s London operation, looks to have been a step too far for Feather, who has always been seen as being his own man..

Andy Jones, a former director at Feather Brooksbank, said Feather was always an entrepreneur, far more suited to running his own business than working in a corporate environment like Aegis.

“He is a great networker so will have plenty of contacts although will no doubt have an exclusion clause in his contract. However, he has been there before and knows how to operate with that constraint. His company will be an attraction to those clients who want a more personal operation to work with. He also has an intimate knowledge of Carat’s pricing structure and will be able to exploit this.”

Jones also praised the role Brooksbank has played in Feather’s success however.

“They were the perfect fit as Giles had the attention to detail and administrative skills to complement Stuart’s abilities as a front man. It is also a difficult economic environment to start up but this was also the case when Stuart started Feather Brooksbank. He will have to have good people to support him if he is to succeed.

Tony Harding, former director of recruitment at Feather Brooksbank said that he felt that now was a good time for Feather to leave, but was skeptical of reports that Feather would begin again to build another agency similar to that of his previous agency.

“He is a real talent and a good leader of people. At Feather Brooksbank there was a good axis of people. You had Giles who looked after the money, Barbara [Moyses] who looked after the accounts with Stuart out socialising and winning the business and being very much the driving force. He’s fantastic in pitch when on form.”

Harding also warned against the London office seconding anyone to Scotland, saying that other companies had tried and failed before, citing a lack of understanding of the marketplace as their downfall.

He contined to underline the impact that Feather Brooksbank had had on the Scottish creative agencies and highlighted his belief of its legacy; “They were game changers, the pair of them, and Barbara Moyses, and they have changed the way that business was done in Scotland and they gave clients a different thing. Now you could argue that some of what they did is not fashionable anymore and MediaCom does think slightly differently. But their legacy is that they changed the way clients work. They went from full service agencies like Faulds to representing media as an actual facet that was important to a client and did a bloody good job for a lot of clients. Agencies like The Union and Leith have benefitted from having Feather Brooksbank on their manor. That’s a lasting legacy. These creative agencies undervalue media anyway, but would the creative agencies be as successful without Feather Brooksbank having done what they did in the marketplace? I would say probably not.

"I don’t know how much support the London office of Carat has given to Feather Brooksbank over the years and eventually they are doing what the classic London paymasters do. They see it as a small agency in Scotland, and they underestimate the power that people such as Stuart and Giles have and it’s good to see that Giles has stayed," added Harding.

“Carat will carry on without Stuart, but my gut feeling is, and I do fear Carat thinking that they can transport London to Scotland without the right people and put people on secondment to run things or whatever. If so then good luck to them because a lot of people have tried that up here and it doesn’t work unless you get the right person.

They were game changers, the pair of them, and Barbara Moyses and they have changed the way that business was done in Scotland and they gave clients a different thing. Now you could argue that some of what they did is not fashionable anymore and MediaCom does think slightly differently. But their legacy is that they changed the way clients work. They went from full service agencies like Faulds to representing media as an actual facet that was important to a client and did a bloody good job for a lot of clients. Agencies like The Union and Leith have benefitted from having Feather Brooksbank on their manor. That’s a lasting legacy. These creative agencies undervalue media anyway, but would the creative agencies be as successful without Feather Brooksbank having done what they did in the marketplace? I would say probably not.”

Gillian Jarvie, former managing director of Feather Brooksbank’s Glasgow office, remembers her time working with Feather, describing him as being ‘unbeatable’ when on form.

“To work with he has been challenging, inspiring, frustrating, supportive and great fun,” continues Jarvie. “The things I’ll remember about him are, the calculations he did at lightning speed in his head (leaving us all thumping calculators, furiously trying to catch up), his incredibly low boredom threshold, the way he would arrive the night before a pitch and change everything, the way he knew everyone’s birthday in the company, the number of blondes he managed to employ before HR existed and shouting at me for daring to eat my lunch at my desk. Above all though I’ll remember what a great place Feather Brooksbank was to work. Largely it was down to Stuart and Giles caring about the people who worked for them.”

She adds; “Somehow I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him.”

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